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School of Divinity: Equality and Diversity

School of Divinity: Equality and Diversity

News and events supporting and promoting equality, diversity and respect at the School of Divinity, New College, University of Edinburgh

What to do if you see or experience bullying or harassment

As part of the School’s commitment to Athena SWAN, every annual staff awayday includes a session on equality and diversity. On Monday 27 May, this took the form of a presentation and workshop on bullying and harassment, underlining the University’s Dignity and Respect Policy.

What constitutes harassment?

External speaker Richard Boardman said that ‘harassment’ is defined in the Equality Act 2010 as: ​ “Unwanted conduct related to a protected characteristic*, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual.”

* The nine protected characteristics are sex, disability, race, age, religion or belief, pregnancy/maternity, marriage/civil partnership, gender reassignment, sexual orientation.


Bullying is not defined in law but the University defines bullying as: “Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour which intentionally or unintentionally undermines, humiliates, denigrates or injures the recipient.”


  • Does not have to relate to a protected characteristic ​
  • Usually occurs from a position of strength (seniority, numbers) ​

When is behaviour unacceptable?

The defining principle is whether behaviour is unacceptable by reasonable normal standards of behaviour.​

Many of us will agree on what constitutes bullying and harassment in extreme cases​, but how do we arrive at an agreed position on what constitutes normal and reasonable?​

​Key questions:

  • Would you want a family member to be the target of this behaviour? ​
  • Would you act in this way if a member of your/their family was present?  Or if your boss was present?​
  • Would you want your behaviour discussed on social media? Reported in student media?​
  • Would I act in this way to someone more senior than me?​
  • Are there indications that the behaviour is not welcome? ​
  • Am I misusing my power?

What can I do if I see harassment or bullying?

Support the recipient of the behaviour, during the incident or afterwards:

  • Approach the individual affected informally and confidentially and replay what you have observed. ​
  • Ask if they want to discuss the situation and listen sympathetically.​
  • Advise them of sources of support (eg. Dignity & Respect Adviser, HR, etc)

In terms of the the person who is doing the harassing or bullying:

During the incident or afterwards:

  • Replay what you have observed and explain why you feel uncomfortable with the interaction or their behaviour. ​
  • Change the focus, interrupt or distract. Follow up with either parties at a later date when they are calm. ​
  • Do not laugh, respond or engage in a way which can be viewed by both Actor and the Receiver as corroboration.  ​
  • Change the person / shift attitudes (management).

If you experience harassment or bullying

The University has published guidance for staff experiencing or concerned about bullying or harassment.

See University guidance for staff concerned about bullying or harassment

Sources of support:

  • University’s Dignity and Respect Advisors​
  • HR​
  • Staff Counselling Service​
  • Trade Union Representatives ​
  • The Advice Place (for students) ​

You can also contact the School’s Director of Equality and Diversity:

Dr K. Hannah Holtschneider (pronouns are she/her)
Tel: 0131 650 8933


University’s Dignity and Respect webpages​




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